Study Guide

Bless Me, Ultima Fear

By Rudolfo Anaya


I shuddered and my heart turned cold at the thought. The cuentos of the people were full of tales of evil done by brujas. (1.19-121)

Anaya accomplishes a whole lot with this just one line about Antonio's fear. Just from this, the reader knows that Antonio and his people fully accept that the power of brujas (witches) is real, so we get the whole magical realism thing going early. Anaya (through the narrator Antonio) also establishes that young Antonio starts the novel afraid of Ultima, which definitely gives their relationship a place to go throughout the rest of the book.

I heard Deborah reassuring Theresa that she would take care of her, and then she took Theresa in her arms and rocked her until they were both asleep. (1.443-445)

Deborah and Theresa (and Antonio, for that matter) are frightened by the sounds Ultima's owl makes on the first night Ultima comes to stay with them. This reinforces the idea that initially not everyone in the house is on board with the magical old lady being there. More importantly, though, this line provides one of the few times that we see how much Antonio's sisters actually care about each other. The girls sort of get short shrift in this book, so this is a nice moment that hints at how important each one is to the other.

I had never felt such fear before, because as the whirlwind blew its debris around me the gushing wind seemed to call my name. (6.156-158)

After Ultima blesses Antonio for the first time, Antonio recalls this story about how God punished him once in the form of a whirlwind. He equates that whirlwind to the effect that Ultima's first blessing had on him. He's equally afraid and stunned. It might be simple to look at, but this sentence (and the few that follow) is big time. This is the first moment when Antonio even dares to think that there may be power in the world equal to that of God's.

"You are not afraid, are you Antonio?" (10.345-346)

Whew! Tough question to answer, right? Especially when you're about to enter a situation that's really kind of scary. Ultima asks this of Antonio before the first time they confront Tenorio. The thing is, Antonio answers "no," and there's a good chance he's telling the truth. Antonio gains strength from the presence of Ultima.

It was more than the three men could stand. They were frightened. They lowered their eyes to avert Tenorio's gaze and scurried for the door. (10.407-409)

Just the mention of brujas and witchery is enough to terrify people in this novel. Talk of a curse leads up to this moment. Remember, curses are treated as being deadly serious in Bless Me, Ultima.

"When you were in Tenorio's bar, you were not afraid of him. And here, you were not afraid to enter where death lurks." (10.466-468)

Sometimes, the toughest person out there is the little old lady. That's something to keep in mind. Nothing frightens Ultima. She's too wise, too strong, and too at peace with herself to let anything shake her.

I heard a low moan as Tenorio aimed his pistol at the head of Narciso. I screamed in fear and Tenorio spun around and saw me. (14.974-976)

Fear is not pre-meditated. It functions on a primal level. Even Antonio, who's growing into a pretty tough young man, can't escape from it. It just happens (unless you're Ultima, or maybe this dude who jumps his motorcycle over a plane).

I was so startled and frightened that I jumped like a wounded rabbit, but he made no move to catch me. (16.56-57)

Man, a well-placed simile can really say it all. When Antonio jumps "like a wounded rabbit" at the sight of a crazed Tenorio, Anaya establishes that Tenorio is the predator and Antonio is the prey. At least that's the case in Antonio's eyes. The fact that he manages to stand up to Tenorio right after this shows how much Antonio is growing.

"The atomic bomb," they whispered, "a ball of white heat beyond the imagination, beyond hell." (16.14-15)

The atomic bomb terrifies the adults of the town. That's not a surprise. What's interesting about this quote is that it places the atomic bomb as something even beyond hell. It's similar to how witches are talked about in the book, so in a way, the people grant the bomb a level of supernatural power, despite its roots in science.